Design museums may not be considered essential businesses, but they’ve made sure you’re still able to visit them. Several have created virtual tours of their spaces and specially curated programmes for the stay home crowd. Even if you’re not an architecture or design geek, this is a great opportunity to visit places that you wouldn’t previously have thought of travelling to. It might even inspire you to check out the real thing when tourism makes a comeback.
Vitra Design Museum
For design buffs, the Vitra Design Museum is considered the place to go to for design appreciation and to understand the relationship between design, architecture and everyday life.
The museum has since reopened but will continue its #VDMHomeStories which is good news for those who can’t be there yet.
Follow its social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram for its themed series, which shows items in its collection or in buildings around the world, putting them in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.
For example, there is an IG post on Aalvar Aalto’s Paimio Sanatorium in Finland, built to house tuberculosis patients in the 1930s and designed to make sure patients always had a view of nature. The post reminds us that even back then, when diseases were widespread, much thought was put into the wellbeing of users when designing a building.
Tune into the museum’s IG TV for video curations of the exhibitions and interviews with designers.
The pride of the museum is its collection of about 7,000 pieces of furniture, lights and home accessories. Its online catalogue is categorised into types of objects, materials and designers. If that’s too overwhelming, head to the highlights section where iconic pieces are shown. Each item comes with a short description about its history and design concept – a handy guide for your next designer furniture purchase.
Visit design-museum.de for more information.
Design Museum London
The Design Museum in London believes that there is no reason to miss out on the joy of design, just because most of the world is in isolation.
Although it is temporarily closed, the museum’s digital design calendar is filled with programmes for adults and kids. Every Saturday, for #DesignDispatches, its director Tim Marlow conducts candid interviews with designers and architects on IG TV, including big names such as fashion designer Stella McCartney, product designer Yves Behar and fashion accessories designer Anya Hindmarch.
The museum covers all aspects of design, from fashion, architecture, to product and transport design.
Its Learn with the Design Museum programme encourages people to pick up a new skill, whether it’s learning how to sketch or to take better photos. Leading UK designer Paul Priestman also pitches in with a workshop on making a mobile phone holder from an egg box, a life hack for anyone who has to do video conference calls at home. Kids’ activities are also included.
Josephine Chanter, its director of audiences, says, “‘During this crisis we want to share with people a time of experimentation, reflection, understanding and hopefully, to find some solace in the optimism of design.’
Visit designmuseum.org for more information.
Possibly the first word in any architect’s vocabulary, Bauhaus, the influential art and design movement which started in Germany pushed for a geometric and abstract style that combined aesthetics and functionality.
The Bauhaus Archiv contains collections of art works, objects and literature that relate to the Bauhaus school. The museum is currently closed for renovations, but its “Discover Bauhaus from Home” programme is available online.
Download its Temporary Bauhaus App for an audio guide to view its collection. The clips explain how the Bauhaus school started, but what’s more interesting are the sections on iconic furniture pieces such as the Lattice Chair and the Tubular Steel Armchair by Marcel Breuer. For each item, a narrator goes into detail about its history and significance.
Surprisingly, the app also features online yoga courses, but that’s because the Bauhaus school emphasized harmony of mind and body as being just as important as art and craftsmanship. Courses are in German, but with English subtitles.
Those who want to get crafty can do so, with a series of activity worksheets that are suited for both kids and adults. Lastly, the website also runs live streaming of the construction of the museum’s new building.
Visit bauhaus.de for more information.
Victoria and Albert museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum houses over 2.3 million objects in its permanent collection, spanning furniture, fashion, jewellery and ceramics. It’s impossible to see everything at one shot, so the beauty of exploring it online is that you can shortlist your favourites to savour on your next visit to the real thing.
Some objects offer very detailed historical background such as flock wallpaper, which was originally invented in the late 17th century to imitate velvet wallcoverings. It later declined in popularity when “washable” wallpaper was preferred.
A more relatable online exhibition is Pandemic Objects, which looks at things that have taken on new meaning in the Covid-19 pandemic. Take bread, for example, the most commonly bought item from a bakery or supermarket. With cities in lockdown, almost everyone, even those who have never baked bread, has been spurred into making their own.
Other everyday objects now in the spotlight are, of course, toilet paper and digital thermometers. They form the focus of the museum’s project which presents a unique picture of the pandemic and the crucial roles that objects play.
Visit vam.ac.uk for more information.
This article was originally published in The Business Times.